New Zealand heads to the polls on Saturday, and in the flow of policy announcements, personalities and politicking, it’s worth looking at how our neighbourhood would be affected by the promises of the main parties.
In many ways, modern politics can closely resemble a Trade Me auction, with the major parties conducting a bidding war for the votes of different sectors of the community. Whether this is the best way to run a parliamentary democracy is left as an exercise for the reader; however it’s clear that there are some quite different choices facing the residents of Mt Victoria.
It seems reasonable to assume that the race in Wellington Central is largely between Grant Robertson (Labour) and Stephen Franks (National). While there are a large number of candidates in the electorate – as shown by the recent electorate debate at Crossways – most of the smaller parties are campaigning solely for the party vote, or have no believable chance of winning more than a few percentage points of support. Even the Green MP Sue Kedgley is not explicitly running as the local candidate in this election.
Mr Robertson assumes the mantle of retiring Wellington Central MP Marian Hobbs, and has already been involved with the Mt Victoria community at a local level. This was very apparent in the various discussions about the fate of the Crossways Creche, when he arranged a productive meeting with the Minister of Education to discuss possible funding options. While the discussions have come to nothing due to the Presbyterian Church’s decision to sell the original Crossways building against the wishes of the community, Mr Robertson provided tangible assistance and support to the Crossways campaign. It seems likely that his support of our community would continue should he be elected to Parliament as the local MP.
Mr Franks is a long-time local resident who has a stellar track record of involvement with the Mt Victoria Residents Association and many other local community activities. He has been supportive of the Crossways campaign, and is held in high esteem by many members of the community because of his many decades of service to our neighbourhood. It seems highly likely that we would have a strong representative for our community’s interests in Parliament should he be elected as the local MP.
At the end of the day, however, politics is about much more than simply the personalities of the local MPs, and there are serious differences between the major parties when it comes to policies that would affect our neighbourhood.
Contentious Roading Projects
The National leader, Mr John Key, has announced substantial support for roading projects across the country, and a desire to fast-track their approval. This approach has been applied to projects in Auckland, Waikato and Tauranga, with some discussion even about fast-tracking more roads in smaller centres such as Nelson. It seems likely that this approach would be extended to the recently announced Basin Reserve flyover and the second tunnel through Mt Victoria, and it is apparent that a National government would make it much more difficult for local residents to object to these projects.
Under the Labour government, these projects have not been fast-tracked, but they have not been halted either. Leaving aside the concerns about climate change and the end of cheap oil – and therefore the wisdom of building more roads – the main impact on Mt Victoria will be the demolition of Paterson Street and the defacing of the Basin Reserve, and we will suffer more pollution, more noise, lower amenity values and lower property values if these projects proceed.
The only party opposed to more roading is the Greens.
Winner: The Green Party
The Mt Victoria Residents Association has fought long and hard against poor development decisions in our neighbourhood, and this has been a defining attribute of the Association for many decades. The most recent example concerns Crossways, where there was significant community concern that a historic house could be sold to developers and then demolished to make room for an apartment building.
The National Party has announced policy that would make it easier for development to occur, and it would significantly weaken the provisions of the Resource Management Act. In addition, their proposed changes would make it harder and more expensive for local residents to oppose unwelcome development. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that Crossways might well have been demolished had these changes been in place.
Any loosening of planning controls is likely to have a negative and long-term impact on the liveability of our community.
Loser: The National Party
There has been much discussion around the tax cut bidding war that seemed to be defining the election campaigns earlier in the year. However the global economic meltdown has now made a long and deep recession in New Zealand a near-certainty, and the impact on Mt Victoria could be significant.
Mr Key has announced a return of the razor gang of the 1990s, last seen when Ruth Richardson was Finance Minister, aimed at decreasing public sector spending. There is a growing body of evidence that this may not be a sound economic approach; however if these policies are implemented, the impacts on Wellington are likely to be dire. The last time public sector was aggressively cut, local unemployment rose steeply, pay rates for Wellingtonians fell, and property values plummeted. If you intend voting on the basis of simple economic self-interest, then the level of tax rates will be academic in this environment; the macro-economic damage to Wellington from the razor gang will more than outweigh the few dollars a week in lower taxes.
In comparison, Ms Helen Clark has announced that the $1 billion housing upgrade fund negotiated by the Green Party as part of the ETS negotiation will be brought forward if Labour is re-elected. This fund aims to insulate existing houses and help support the construction sector through environmental retrofits to our current housing stock. This policy makes a lot of sense in Mt Victoria; our houses are predominantly old, and around two thirds are tenanted. Warmer and drier houses will make a difference to the quality of life and the budgets of many local families, and the Labour policy of continuing government employment will make a big difference to job certainty in very uncertain times.
Winner: The Labour Party
Despite the proven local track record of Mr Stephen Franks – and despite the fact that he would undoubtedly make an excellent local MP – the policies of the National Party are likely to have heavily negative impacts for our neighbourhood. Our quality of life will be diminished by inappropriate large-scale roading projects, historic homes will be demolished to make way for tunnels and apartment buildings, and our incomes may well fall as unemployment rises.
The priority of this website is to promote the interests of our neighbourhood. For this reason, we are endorsing Mr Grant Robertson as the candidate for Wellington Central, and the parties of the Left – Labour and the Greens – for the party vote. We would encourage all residents to consider the impacts of party policies on our community when making their voting decision on Saturday.